Makara Sankranthi, or Sankranti or Pongal is a popular Indian festival celebrated in almost all parts of India and Nepal. It is the only festival of Hindu that follows a solar calendar and is celebrated on the fourteenth of January every year. The day is also believed to mark the arrival of spring in India and is a traditional event. Sankranti has astronomical significance: it marks the beginning of Uttarayana, the Sun's movement northward for a six month period. In Hinduism, Uttarayana is considered auspicious, as opposed to Dakshinaayana, or the southern movement of the sun. All important events are scheduled during this period. Makara Sankranthi refers to the event of the Sun entering the zodiac sign of Makara or Capricorn.
Pongal signals the end of the traditional farming season, giving farmers a break from their monotonous routine. Farmers also perform puja to some crops, signaling the end of the traditional farming season. It also sets the pace for a series of festivals to follow in a calendar year. In fact, four festivals are celebrated in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu for four consecutive days in that week. Bogi is celebrated on January 13, Sankranthi / Pongal on Jan 14, Kamuma / Maattuppongal on Jan 15, and Mukkanuma / Kanum Pongal on Jan 16.
The festival is celebrated for four days. On, the first day, Bhogi, the old clothes and materials are thrown away and fired, marking the beginning of a new life. The second day, the Sankranthi or Pongal, is celebrated by boiling fresh milk early in the morning and allowing it to boil over the vessel - the literal translation for Pongal. People also prepare savouries and sweets, visit each other's homes, and exchange greetings. The third day, Kanuma / Mattuppongal, is meant to offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes, as they are used to plough the lands. On the last day, Mukkanuma / Kanum Pongal, people go out to picnic.
Legend associated with the festival relates to Lord Shiva. The third day of Pongal known as Kanuma / Mattu Pongal involves Lord Shiva and his mount, Nandi (Basava), the bull. According to the legend, Lord Shiva once asked his bull to go to the Earth and deliver his message to the people to have an oil massage and bath daily and to eat food once a month. Mistakenly, Basava announced to have an oil massage and bath once a month and to eat food daily. Enraged Shiva cursed Basava and said that due to this mistake there would be lack of grains on the Earth. He banished the bull to live on earth forever and help people plough the fields. Thus, Kanuma / Mattu Pongal has an association with the cattle. It is also called Kanuma / Kanu Pongal. The celebrations of the festival are similar to the festivals of Raksha Bandhan and Bhai Dooj of No rth India.
It is believed that on this auspicious day Lord Surya visits his son, Lord Shani who is the ruling Deity of Makara Rashi (Capricorn). As per Hindu mythology Surya Dev and Shani Dev don’t get along well. But on this auspicious day they put their bitterness for each other behind them and make a new beginning.
As per Mahabharata, the warrior Bhishma Pitamaha leaves his earthy body on this day. It is believed that those who pass away on this day/time attain Moksha or liberation.
It is on this day that King Bhagirath brought the Holy Ganga to Earth, thus providing Moksha to the 60,000 sons of Maharaj Sagar. The king offered an oblation of the Gangajal to liberate the souls.
Lord Vishnu, on this day put an end to the surging violence of the demons and buried their heads under the foothills of Mandar Parvat.
One Festival Different Names:
Sankranti is celebrated all over South Asia with some regional variations. It is known by different names and celebrated with different customs in different parts of the country popularly celebrated in Andhra pradesh (Sankranthi), Telangana (Sankranthi), Karnataka (Sankranthi) and Tamil Nadu (Pongal).
In India it is known by different regional names.
Makar Sankranti: Chhattisgarh, Goa, Odisha, Haryana, Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh,Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, and West Bengal.
Pongal, Uzhavar Thirunal: Tamil Nadu
Maghi: Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. The day before, people of Punjab celebrate Lohri.
Bhogali Bihu: Assam
Shishur Saenkraat: Kashmir Valley
Khichdi: Uttar Pradesh and western Bihar
Makara Sankramana: Karnataka
In other countries too the day is celebrated but under different names and in different ways.
Nepal: Maghe Sankranti
Laos: Pi Ma Lao
Cambodia: Moha Sangkran
Sri Lanka: Pongal, Uzhavar Thirunal
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